The Talos Principle Review: (Meta)Physics Puzzler

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Posted on December 9, 2014, Phil Hornshaw The Talos Principle Review: (Meta)Physics Puzzler

The Talos Principle is a game about puzzles. The Talos Principle is a game about the meaning of life. The Talos Principle is a game about what makes humans special or doesn’t, about transcendence, about religion, about purpose.

It’s a game about stepping into rooms and solving problems and wondering what the purpose is behind it all. It presents a puzzle box of intersecting story, meaning, and gameplay, all of which work toward an experience of asking you deeper questions about these moments, about why you do what you do, and about life itself.

At its core, The Talos Principle is a solidly engaging puzzler all the way through, constantly providing new challenges. But developer Croteam asks you to think about the experiences of solving those puzzles beyond the usual drive merely to complete and conquer. Its emphasis on existential philosophy and metaphysical questions might not be for everyone — the camp of players interested only in games as simple escapism may find it pretentious, although The Talos Principle’s many smart puzzles easily scratch that itch, too.

But there’s more to The Talos Principle than what’s on the surface. It uses the medium of games to encourage you to think and explore what it offers on several levels, and in that way, it becomes an addicting experience.

The Talos Principle
Platform: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2014
MSRP: $39.99
Available: Steam

You awaken in a strange garden with the booming voice of Elohim — God, if we want to get all translationy — telling you that he is your creator, that this is your place, that you have a purpose. You solve puzzles. You find “sigils” at the ends of those puzzles. You use sigils to open up more areas. Inside, you complete more puzzles.

Indeed, the primary thrust of first-person title The Talos Principle is in solving these big, multi-stage problems. They’re mostly presented in specific rooms in a Portal-style organization: you enter a specific “test chamber”-type area, it includes specific tools and objects (of which you will unlock more to create more complex experiences later), and your job is to figure out how to use those tools around the room in order to open a gate and reach a new sigil. The tools include “jammers,” which are used to deactivate things like force fields, auto turrets and floating mines; prisms that redirect colored laser beams around rooms to activate specific switches; fans that can blow objects (and you) around a room; and, of course, weighted “hexahedrons” that can hold down pressure switches.

From almost the beginning of the game to its end, The Talos Principle’s puzzles are often tough and always intelligent. A solution might be readily apparent, but the proper spacial arrangement of the necessary tools might not. Or you might have to explore how you can use a tool in a new way, like detaching the blades of a fan to use as a weight for a switch.

To its credit, with probably around 100 puzzles to solve, The Talos Principle never gates your progress so much that you’re stuck banging your head against a wall. In fact, the game often encourages you to leave, try something else, think on a problem for a bit, and come back later. There are so many sigils in the game that you can often advance without picking up all of them until the end of the game.


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